Set in 1485 against the aftermath of the Battle of Bosworth when the first Tudor King Henry VII took the throne from Richard III, Satin Cinnabar is both an off-beat historical romance and a straight forward murder-mystery-adventure. These plots and sub-plots interweave, held together by the strong atmospheric medieval backgrounds and the depth of characterization.
On his escape from the abandoned battlefield, Alex, younger son of a slain lord, throws off his armour which would mark him as a knight of the vanquished Yorkists. The Lady Katherine, having heard tales of marauding soldiers both vanquished and victorious, is dressed for greater safety as a boy. She and Alex, both in disguise, meet in unusual circumstances.
The consequent adventures take place against a background of reeking bustle, the confusion of medieval London’s prosperous growth, back alleys, the horrors of Newgate Prison, the sewerage ridden river, the quarrelsome and diverse population, and all the inevitable power struggle, politics and turmoil accompanying the very beginning of the new Tudor dynasty.
And now, from Satin Cinnabar:
Being convinced of his own death, he was unsurprised at the depth of his grave. Black sweltering weight forced down upon him and the heat, being airless, was inescapable. Deep buried and suffocating, he recognized the prerequisites of hellfire, for death was the inevitable consequence of life, its ultimate curiosity, and in battle, its culmination. The darkness remained absolute, the furnace insufferable and the pain unrelenting. Seeping to him from beyond his tomb, the sounds of nightmare intruded and concentrated.
Alex smelled old blood crusted in the heat, a sour coppery smell that gagged at the throat. He assumed the blood was his own. A sudden spasm jabbed his shoulder and he gasped, gulping for breath. A reaction which inspired a question. Breathing, therefore, perhaps, after all, not dead. Buried not as corpse, but alive. And if not dead, then how to rediscover life.
Blinking, slowly accustomed to the dark, he found a face above him, a splintered snarling bone, divided where once there was nose and mouth. So Alex knew himself alive but lying crushed beneath the slain, stiffening in blood and thick in shit. But having survived, would not survive much longer. Some things were immediately imperative. Therefore escape the grave, discover the battle’s end and know which cause claimed victory.
One arm was clamped beneath the faceless dead, his armour dented and the buckles broken. He moved his other hand, punched up and explored air. The air felt fresh against his fingers, sunbalmed and pleasant. Squashed within the stink of other men’s deaths, the sweat of their futile desperation and the agony of their slaughter, Alex found more breath and the strength to struggle. He wrestled, elbow and knees, the clank of fist on metal and the soft moist squelch of open wounds and limbless joints. Some of the weight rolled away.
It was the blood of the ruined face which he wore and the same man’s torn chain mail ragged against his jugular. Then more bodies. One by wretched one, each unrecognisable lump of voided debris flung aside, Alex freed himself from corpses and crawled out into sunshine.[subscribe2]